Alain Juppe at Toulouse victims' funerals_370.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The day after the barbaric murder of four members of Toulouse’s Jewish
community, the Anti-Defamation League released a disturbing report on
anti-Semitism. The timing may or may not have had something to do with the
atrocity, but the data did not, reflecting the findings of a poll actually
conducted two months earlier. The bottom line: For far many more gentiles than
we would care to admit, the Jews will never be at home in Europe.
not talking about a marginal phenomenon here. The 10 countries the survey
covered were Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway,
Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, and on the average it found that 31
percent of their populations harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. The actual
figures ranged from a relatively low 10% in The Netherlands to a staggering 63%
in Hungary. In France, the number was 24%, up from 20% in 2009.
course, “Who is an anti-Semite?” is probably no less complex a question than
“Who is a Jew?” For its purposes, the ADL decided that it was anyone who agreed
with at least three of the following four statements: 1) Jews are more loyal to
Israel than to the country they live in, 2) Jews have too much power in the
business world, 3) Jews have too much power in international financial markets,
and 4) Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.
Interestingly the survey included no attitudinal questions, nor any that dealt
with friendship, likability or character. In other words, someone who felt that
all of the above categorizations were accurate but still enjoyed the company of
Jews would nevertheless be labeled an anti-Semite.
But let’s not quibble
over definitions. However one interprets the data, there can be little doubt
that a large percentage of Europeans would be happy to be rid of their Jewish
Still, one of the declarations the ADL included as an
indicator of anti-Semitism deserves special attention in the aftermath of
Toulouse. Is it any wonder that 45% of the French population believes its Jewish
neighbors to be more attached to the Jewish state than to the French Republic
when the victims’ families arranged for their loved ones to be buried in the
Promised Land rather than the land that promised them liberté, égalité and
fraternité? If I were a non-Jewish Frenchman, I’ve no doubt I would be asking
myself if I could honestly expect of these Jews, who prefer to be buried in the
land of their forebears after their deaths, to have France’s interests at heart
while still alive.
I consider it remarkable, then, that France’s Foreign
Minister Alain Juppe chose to participate in the funerals of the victims here in
Israel. His doing so not only reflected a subtle acknowledgment of the dual
loyalty harbored by at least some of his country’s Jewish citizens, but actually
conferred a degree of legitimacy on the phenomenon. He was here, he said, at the
request of President Nicolas Sarkozy, in order to “express the French nation’s
solidarity with the bereaved families and with the entire Israeli
The statement caused me to reflect on the connection between the
French government’s response to this act of terror and the pivotal role it
played in securing the release of French citizen and Israeli captive Gilad
Schalit. As he was taken hostage while on duty as a soldier of the Jewish state,
there can be no doubt as to where his allegiance lay, and thus it would have
been entirely understandable had Sarkozy wiped his hands of the affair. That he
instead aggressively sought his return attests to an acceptance of the idea of
multiple fidelities for the citizens of today’s global village.
French politicians may have come to accept a large segment of their population
living with its feet planted firmly on French soil while its heart beats to
another nation’s rhythm, many in Israel continue to find the phenomenon baffling
– particularly in light of the constancy of anti-Semitic incidents
there. Calls for aliya were quick to come in the aftermath of the
Toulouse shooting, with Israel portrayed as a safe haven from the mortal danger
in which French Jews find themselves.
Well and good, except that French
Jews reject that notion.
“I do not accept the idea that Jews are not safe
here [in France],” said Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, the representative
council of France’s Jewish community. “Those politicians in Israel who say there
is a need to make aliya now simply do not know our country.”
statistics are in Prasquier’s favor. Thirteen Jews have been killed in
anti-Semitic attacks in his country in the 67 years since the end of World War
II. Until two weeks ago, the number stood at nine. Each one, of course, is a
tragedy in its own right, but that doesn’t mask the fact that many more French
Jews than that have died in Israel as a result of war and terror. To say that it
is safer today for a Jew to live in the Jewish state than in France is to mock
that reality. Those of us, then, who would like to see an increase in aliya from
France had best come up with a better reason for living here than the fear of
There are many, but I will limit myself to just a few that
are seasonal. This is what I would tell them.
SPRING IS in the air. On my
way to synagogue this past Shabbat, I notice that the buds have appeared on my
fig tree, that wildflowers have taken over the city’s empty lots, and that the
garbage dumpsters are overflowing – as sure a sign as any that Passover cleaning
has begun in earnest. Special catalogue-length supplements in the weekend papers
promote a variety of household products that one can’t possibly do without in
getting ready for the holiday. And advertisements for all imaginable consumer
goods have taken on a Passover theme as familiar as the Haggada itself. Example:
The wise son, where does he shop…?
The particular answer aside, every
supermarket and corner grocery is already in the process of being made kosher
for the holiday, for here Passover is a communal affair that, rather than
setting us apart from our neighbors, colleagues and friends, binds us to them in
an almost primordial way. For 90% of the Jews in this country, participating in
a Passover Seder is important. And I have no doubt that many of the 10% for whom
it is not are nonetheless dragged along to one by somebody for whom it
“Don’t move here, then,” I would continue, “because you feel afraid
and insecure there, but rather because of the sense of belonging you will feel
here that is as obvious as it is inexplicable.” That is something none of us
should take for granted.
So next week, when you recite the words “Next
year in Jerusalem” at the end of the Seder, pause and think about what they mean
for you, wherever you might be. And consider that even in this global village we
all inhabit, there’s still no place like home.
The writer is deputy
chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of The Jewish Agency
Executive. The opinions expressed herein are his own.